Arenas de Ruiz, formerly of Venezuela, had been among parishioners in Harris County, Fort Bend and Brazoria counties who took the three-day leadership training offered by The Metropolitan Organization (TMO), a nonprofit grassroots group. In mid-summer, more than 1,250 TMO leaders from 30 churches and other institutions convened on Zoom and Facebook watch parties for a virtual “Get out the Vote Rally” and made thousands of phone calls to 16 Harris County precincts that traditionally had low voter turnout.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has offered a teaching document on the political responsibilities of Catholics called “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship.” The document urges all pastors, lay and religious faithful and all people of good will “to help form consciences, teach those entrusted to their care; to contribute to civil and respectful public dialogue and to shape politics.”
Father Rodney Armstrong of Our Mother of Mercy Catholic Church in Fifth Ward and his parishioners set up a voter registration table at a nearby McDonald’s fast-food restaurant with owner approval. The pastor also made a video that TMO placed on its Facebook to encourage voters.
Dr. Fernando Scaglia, a parishioner at Assumption Catholic Church off Airline Drive, said he participated in the church’s phone bank as well despite his busy schedule as a researcher and professor of genetics at Baylor College of Medicine.
He also participated in “Virtual Accountability Sessions,” where TMO invited candidates from Democratic and Republican parties to discuss how they stood on a variety of issues.
“There are so many important issues that impact all of us — health and the pandemic; economic issues like evictions and even the DACA issue for dreamers,” Dr. Scaglia said.
[Photo Credit: St. Leo the Great Catholic Church]
Faithful Citizenship Sparks Nonpartisan Voter Rallies at Houston Parishes, The Texas Catholic Herald [pdf]
The San Juan Diego Catholic Parish in northwest Dallas was a flurry of activity Saturday afternoon.
The nonpartisan political nonprofit is one of several groups in Dallas and across the state working to get Latinos to the polls. The goal is to boost candidates who are more likely to support progressive policies that would expand health care and police reform as well as establish drivers licenses for immigrants without documentation.
The group has targeted six statehouse races in North Texas where they hope to energize voters to pick candidates who support their agenda.
Margarito Garcia Jr., 32, is one of those volunteers making phone calls, despite the fact he cannot vote in this election. He lives in the U.S. under the DACA program, which was put in place by President Barack Obama to give young immigrants brought here as children the ability to remain in the country.
“A citizen isn’t someone who is born here, but someone who cares about the community they live in,” he said about his work in the political process.
When Latino voters come out, he said, it reminds candidates that they are part of this country.
“Latinos have a voice,” he said. “Politicians need to know that when they make decisions, we are important and that we exist.”
[Photo Credit: Jason Janik/Staff Contributor]
Latino Voters Could Make a Difference in National and North Texas Races, Dallas Morning News [pdf]
While it likely won’t address every need that arises from the economic downturn, [a new City program that provides $25 million in financial relief for San Antonio residents] has been touted as an example of how local government can partly fill a gap for families who don’t qualify for federal aid.
“No strings attached, no citizenship necessary, no documents, no paper necessary. Just residents in San Antonio and economic need,”
said Father Bill Kraus of Our Lady of the Angels Catholic Church.
Kraus worked alongside other COPS/Metro leaders to lobby City Council to increase the fund from $15.8 million to $25 million before it gained final approval. And the organization’s leaders are still working throughout the city to identify potential solutions for immigrant families.
Angelica Reyes, a COPS/Metro leader, parent in Harlandale Independent School District, and immigrant, discovered her own challenges as her school-age children switched to at-home learning. Reyes learned that she didn’t have the basic computer skills needed to help her kids adjust to class on a computer. Reyes and other parents and decided to approach the district for help.
[Photo Credit: Scott Ball, Rivard Report]
With No Federal Aid, Immigrant Families, Students Lean on Local Support, Rivard Report [pdf][pdf]
Commentary: A GI Bill for San Antonio, San Antonio Express-News [pdf]
$25 Million Housing Assistance Fund Offers Relief to San Antonians Affected by COVID-19, Texas Public Radio [pdf]
No Evictions for Now in Bexar County, but Renters' Struggles Likely to Persist, Rivard Report [pdf]
Valley Interfaith Project (VIP) and the Arizona Interfaith Network are working with a bipartisan block of state legislators to advance proposals that would reopen pathways to college for immigrants and ensure funding for children's healthcare.
Senate Bill 1217 would reopen a pathway for immigrant college students that had previously been closed by Proposition 300. Prop 300 prohibits colleges from charging in-state tuition to immigrants if they cannot prove legal residency. By creating a new tuition category based on graduation from Arizona high schools, SB 1217 would allow immigrants to pay somewhere between current in-state and out-of-state tuition rates.
HB 2514 and SB 1134 would work to eliminate the cap for the Arizona CHIP program (Kids Care), which provides healthcare coverage for children from low-income families not eligible for other state services. At this time, federal funding is scheduled to decrease by 10% in October of 2019 (and by another 10% in 2020), thus triggering a state cap on funding for KidsCare. With over 30,000 Arizona children currently uninsured, leaders are working hard to get these bills out of committee and included in state budget negotiations.
In a move to boost voter turnout among neglected communities, Texas IAF organizations reached into suburbs surrounding Texas’ largest cities to assemble by the thousands in political, nonpartisan assemblies to help leaders wrest commitments from candidates for state and federal office. Having witnessed candidate responses to locally-developed agendas, which span from local control to Texas school finance and federal immigration reform, leaders are now mobilizing their neighbors to Get Out The Vote.
In North Dallas, for example, two thousand DAI leaders -- many from Carrollton and Farmers Branch -- invited candidates for House Districts 114, 115, 105 and 107, and Congressional District 32, to commit to investing public funds in local labor market intermediaries, crafting immigration reform that would end the separation of children from their parents at the border (and include protections for DACA youth), cracking down on predatory lending, and repealing Senate Bill 4. Hundreds more from Austin and Hayes County challenged candidates for US Congressional Districts 25 and 21, and State House Districts 47, 45 and 136 to publicly pledge support for similar priorities, including the defense of local control over municipal housing and labor policy. In Helotes, just outside of San Antonio, COPS / Metro leaders carted out boxes with thousands of postcard pledges by voters to participate in the election of US Representative for Congressional District 23, which extends to the outskirts of El Paso, and State Representative for House Districts 117 and 118. In Houston, TMO organized assemblies with candidates for US Congressional District 7 and 29; House Districts 144, 133, and 135; and Senate District 17.
Already, unpaid armies of organizational leaders have knocked on thousands of doors and called thousands more to remind supporters and voters to participate in the midterm elections. Last weekend, for example, Austin Interfaith leaders knocked on doors in three counties, four legislative districts and 2 congressional districts. This weekend, all Texas IAF organizations are making a final push -- from the pews, inside health clinics and in long-neglected neighborhoods -- to ensure the highest turnout possible in support of their agenda.
Leaders understand that targeted voter engagement efforts following accountability assemblies help advance their agenda. This year alone, local Texas IAF organizations succeeded in raising municipal wage floors in San Antonio and Austin to $15 per hour; leveraging the support of Chief of Police Art Acevedo to make Houston the first city in Texas to support a gun safety strategy; and preventing unnecessary deportations through widespread adoption of identification cards generated by parishes within the Catholic Diocese of Dallas.
Candidates Share Platform at Assembly, Austin American Statesman
Why Dallas Republicans Skipped an Interfaith Forum, Rewire.News
DAI Accountability Forum [Video]
Immigration was the urgent topic when Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller, MSpS took the stage at COPS/Metro's "A Cry for Justice and a Call to Action" assembly at Our Lady of the Lake University on June 18, 2018. "We live in very challenging times. Basic institutions of justice are being attacked. People are suffering needlessly," the archbishop declared to a packed auditorium. "This is a time of crisis. We have to make a decision. Do we go along with or challenge these trends?"
The assembly, which had been months in the planning, took on an air of urgency and drew a standing-room-only crowd as it coincided with a particularly tense week in the nation's debate on immigration policy. News had just broken of the Trump administration's policy of separating detained children from their parents - a policy Archbishop Gustavo strongly condemned in his speech as "immoral," "evil," and sinful," echoing similar sentiments expressed by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops....
After [hearing a challenge by the Bishop and a DACA participant], faith communities caucused in small groups, then they answered... by pledging to collect 11,500 postcards to be mailed to Texas' congressional representatives in Washington. Archbishop Gustavo took the symbolic first step of signing his name on the first postcards, which will be mailed to Senators Ted Cruz and John Cornyn."
Archbishop Gustavo Urges Action on Immigration at COPS / Metro Assembly, Today's Catholic
San Antonio Archbishop Calls Separation of Families Immoral, Evil and Sinful, NOWCastSA
Valley Interfaith & Bishop Daniel Flores Leverage 2 Votes for Discharge Petition on DACA, Target Third Congressional Rep
Less than four months after Valley Interfaith delivered 10,000 letters calling on Rio Grande Valley lawmakers to take action on DACA, US Congressional Representatives Filemon Vela (D-Brownsville) and Vicente Gonzalez (D-McAllen) announced they will sign a petition in an effort to force the House to take up immigration bills. Both said they would sign Discharge Petition #10, which will set up a "Queen of the Hill" process to consider four bills that would address the uncertain status of DACA recipients. The bill that receives the largest number of votes in support will pass.Read more
Dallas Area Interfaith has been quietly working with Catholic congregations to build support for DREAMers who are now in danger of losing their temporary legal status as their DACA permits expire and a resolution is not in sight. So far, 20,000 signed letters to Senators Cruz and Cornyn have been collected in Catholic parishes in the Dallas area.Read more
TMO leaders stretched beyond Houston, organizing four nonpartisan accountability assemblies and leveraging public commitments in some of the most competitive legislative and congressional districts in the state.
In Congressional District 7, reaching into Katy (West of Houston), TMO leaders from Faith City, Chapelwood United Methodist and Memorial Drive Methodist assembled at Congregation Beth Israel to engage primary candidates around the flooding of a nearby bayou (and need for local Harvey recovery) and comprehensive immigration reform -- securing commitments from both.Read more
Wielding 10,000 signed postcards to Congressional Representatives and scriptural passages on the subject, Valley Interfaith leaders and Catholic Bishop Daniel E. Flores forcefully called on Congress to protect DREAMers as they decide the future of DACA.
"The Bible is clear," declared Msgr. Heriberto Diaz of St. Mary's Catholic Church in Brownsville. "We are to welcome the immigrant, as we were once immigrants in a foreign land."Read more